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English teacher interested in language and culture, and also in fiction using magic, myth, folklore and the supernatural. Now teaching part-time in a Leicester Upper School (ages 14-19) and also writing for children, teens and teachers.

Monday, 30 April 2012

Magical Monday: Review of Crossing Over by Anna Kendall

Enjoyable fantasy focused on an unusual gift.

Author: Anna Kendall
Title: Crossing Over
Genre: Fantasy
Series: this is the first in the Soulvine Chronicles trilogy
Publisher: Indigo
Published: Jan 2012
Source: kindly sent for review by the publisher

Find it at Goodreads or Amazon UK

Goodreads description:
Whether it's a curse, or a blessing, or an ability, the fact remains: whenever Roger is injured or in enough pain he crosses over to the land of the dead. Once there, there are rules: only the newly dead will talk, for example, and nothing will raise the longer dead from their tranquillity.

There are rules in the land of the living as well; rules which would have Roger hanged for witchcraft if he was ever caught. But refusing to cross over isn't an option. His uncle depends on Roger to hide under the table in their fairground act, listen to the recently bereaved asking questions of their dear departed, and then cross over to find the answers. It's a hard way of life, made all the harder as his uncle's fists usually provide the trigger for Roger to cross over.

It's not the only way of life, though, and when Roger sees a chance to escape he fights for it - little knowing that love, loss, shocking revelations and, ultimately, war lie ahead of him.

Just because Roger can cross over into the land of the dead doesn't mean he wants to.

My verdict: fascinating world-building, intriguing concepts. I need to read books 2 and 3 now!
This is a classic fantasy in some respects: vaguely medieval-type setting, magical elements, strong sense of a class divide. At the same time, none of these are exactly as expected: the 'land of the dead' is an original idea (as far as I can tell), and the society is matriarchal - the characters find it completely bizarre that in other societies men rule, as women clearly should be in charge as the givers of life. Roger's gift/curse/ability is a unique product of this unique world and is the main point of interest in this novel.

Roger narrates his own story and his voice convinced me as that of a relatively young teenager, although I was slightly jarred out of the story by his many references to erections. I also found his love for one of the court ladies irritating, as she was clearly a silly individual, but this didn't strike me as necessarily unrealistic. Teens (of both sexes) do develop what they experience as strong lurve feelings for inappropriate people, after all.

The land of the dead itself was not at all what I expected, and this was refreshing. Strange things occur in this land in the course of the novel, and I'm sure there is much more to be discovered about how it works in the rest of the trilogy. Roger himself doesn't really know much about it all, but he is beginning to be curious in this book, so perhaps he will find people who can explain it all to him in his travels.

Overall, I enjoyed this novel. It resolved the main plot issues, whilst leaving enough mystery about Roger's gift and the bigger picture to resolve in the rest of the series. I'd recommend this to teen fans of paranormal fantasy who are looking for something different to vampires, werewolves, angels and fairies.

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